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Sweet is the view where nature's bounteous plan
At night my vision, and my theme by day.' pp. 87, 88...
Customs, and Antiquities, especially of its Productions, Manufacturers and Commerce. By Thomas Macgill. cr. 8vo. pp. 190. price 68.
bds. Longman and Co. 1811. MR. MACGILL is advantageously known to the public,
by his travels in Spain and the Levant. He now undertakes to give some account of the politics, manners, and commerce of Tunis, chiefly with the view of promoting the commercial interests of his own country. His object in visiting that state, was of a mercantile nature; his residence there, it should seem, was in the years 1807 and 1808, though scarcely any account is given of dates or ad. ventures connected with himself; and he took every opportunity of collecting political information from the consuls and principal natives, and commercial information from the leading merchants and brokers. The subject of the publication is not of primary importance to readers in general; but it is an object of considerable curiosity, and a peculiar degree of attention is due, in these times, to a work which is written with so much simplicity, and published so cheap.
In his first chapter, 'Mr. M. gives a slight sketch of the changes in the government of Tunis since the end of the seventeenth century. The present Bey is descended from Assen Ben Aly, the son of a Corsican slave who had renegaded. His reign commenced about the beginning of the last century. As he had no children, he nominated his nephew Aly to succeed him; but afterwards, having had three sons by a Genoese captive, and having prevailed on the Divan to waive their objections to the offspring of a Christian slave, he revoked his appointment. His nephew shortly afterwards retired in disgust, and put himself at the head of a party which he had secretly formed, and having obtained assistance from the Algèrine government, drove Assen from his capital : the unfortunate prince sent his family to Algiers, intending to follow himself, but was at length discovered by Aly's eldest son, who immediately beheaded him. This eldest son, having been compelled to escape from Tunis, by the influence of his brother, who had resolved to supplant him, and who afterwards procured his younger brother to be poisoned, implored succour from the then Dey of Algiers; but the Dey having formerly received an affront froni him, resolved to restore the family of Assen,
and at length made himself master of Tunis, put Aly to death, and in 1753, declared the eldest son of Assen, Mahamed Bey. On the death of Mahamed, his brother Aly assumed the government, which he promised to resign in favour of Mahamed's children, as soon as the eldest should be qualified to reign. He continued in power, however, till his death in 1782; and his son, the present Bey, Hamooda, had been rendered so acceptable to the people, by his father's contrivances, and his own merits, that his cousins were the first to pay him homage, renounced all claims to the government, and what is most extraordinary, are still living, and reside in his palace on terms of amity. The Bey has no children living, and it is supposed will appoint one of his bro:her's four sons successor to the throne, to the exclusion of these rightful heirs. None of the royal race, however, are allowed to quit the palace without permission For several years a son of Younes was suffered to reside there, till he forfeited his life by treasonable correspondence with the Algerines. With so many claimants to sovereign power, it can hardly be expected that public tranquility should be long preserved, after the death of the reigning prince..
Hamooda Bey is now about 60 years old. He is described to be
a man of a handsome, shrewd, and penetrating countenance; he is possessed of very good natural talents, and considering his extremely limited education, his judgement is tolerably enlightened. He reads, writes, and speaks, the Arabic and Turkish languages, and also speaks the “ Lingua Franca," or Italian of the country,
• It is observable, that Hamooda Bey, from great practice, added to a considerable portion of natural sagacity, has a wonderful facility in penetrating into the characters of those who approach him. In reasoning he is keen and quick; seizes the principal points of the argument, and judges with precision and wisdom. He is no stranger to the art of dissimulation, which he aan practise to its full extent, when occasion requires it.'
• He certainly holds a tight rein of government, and acts with such a degree of firmness, as to keep under all intrigues or civil broils in his country. pp. 15, 16.
He bas greatly reduced the influence of the Turks, who used formerly to fill all the principal offices, and has gradually supplied their places with his Georgian slaves, and others in whose attachment he can depend. But he superintends every thing himself without falling much under the inHuence of those whom he intrusts with power. Where his own interest is not concerned, he is said to decide with wisdom and equity. “It must be confessed,' however, says Mr. M. that he oppresses his subjects; and that by en. gaging himself in commercial pursuits, he prevents them from trading with that spirit which they would display, if They had not to contend with their prince.' (p. 21.) His military force is on a better footing than that of any preceding Bey. He can bring into the field at a short warning, from 40,000 to 50,000 arnied rabble, three fourths mounted; besides his 6000 Turks...
In the early part of his life, he was so bad a mussulman, as to be much given to drinking; and his slates, who were under no restraints on account of their religion, encouraged him in his excesses, and of course were careful to follow his example.
• One night, as they were over their cups, a noise was heard in the courtyard below, with impatience the Bey demanded the occasion of it; and and finding that it proceeded from some people of the Dey of Algiers, who were also making merry; he ordered his late prime minister, Mus. tafa, who was a sensible man, to have them immediately strangled. The prudent minister, who is still much spoken of, received the order, but contented himself with putting the poor fellows in prison; telling the prince that he had been obeyed. In the morning, when the fumes of the preceding night's debauch had begun to subside, the Bey inquired after the Algerines. Mustafa reminded him of the order he had given the night before. Almost frantic, Hamooda asked if it had been obeyed? Mustafa answered in the negative ; for which the prince thank. ed him; and since that time he has never tasted wine nor strong drink.' pp. 20; 21.
Mr. Macgill has drawn the characters of the principal personages in the state, with considerable spirit. It will be more worth while, however; to transcribe some of his remarks on the character of the Moors lui general. He calls them all that is bad; proud, iguorant; cunning, full of deceit, treacherous, avaricio!!, ingrateful, revengefulregardless of friendship or delicacy, and only to be operated upon by interest or fear.
• In order to be respected and kindly treated by any of the bar: baresque powers, the rod niust be kept over their heads. You must make them sensible of your superiority; as a master over children at school. No favour must be granted, but in lieu of something equivalent, and not until it has been repeatedly requested ; even then, it should only be granted with reluctance. Should you stand in need of any thing which they can construe into a favour; it may be set down as a rule, that unless through fear, interest, or some other base motive, your request will not be granted by either prince or subject'. p. 38.
• Fighting them with their own weapons, is one mode of conquest; both in political and in mercantile concerns; and it has been argued; that to deal with a Moor to advantage, you must oppose intrigue to
intrigue; injustice to injustice, and chicane to chicane, otherwise he. will be sure to overcome you. But though this maxim has been much followed by those who have hitherto dealt with them, yet honesty is certainly the best policy; and a man on his guard against their weak arts, will render them entirely futile, by a systematic determination tə act with uniform integrity himself, and never, in any degree, to submit to imposition from them. Before talents and integrity, accompanied with vigilance and resolution, the minds of the cunning and unprin. cipled will almost always crouch or shrink, baffled and disconcerted.' pp. 39, 40.
The lower orders, it seems, have a strong passion for corporal punishment, as a kind of sauce to fiscal extortion.
• When called upon to pay their dues to the prince, they uniformly plead inability, and make use of every protestation to support their plea. The tax-gatherer, accustomed to this kind of pretence, puts himi who refuses, ipniediately under the bastinado ; he then cries out, that he will pay, and generally, before rising from the ground, draws forth his bag, and counts out the cash. A gentleman who stood by, on an occasion of this kind, inquired at the man who had been under the bastinado, if it would not have been better to have paid at once? 6. What !” cried he, “ pay my taxes without being bastinadoed? No! no !” Such conduct may arise not only from their great ignorance and love of money, which makes them hope to the last moment that they will escape, but also from the rapacious nature of the governe ment; which renders it dangerous to appear rich.'. pp. 40, 41.
The population of Tunis is commonly stated at five millions; but Mr. Macgill supposes it may with greater reason be reckoned at two and a half millions of souls : 7000 of whom may be Turks; 100,000 Jews; 7000 Christians; either freemen or slaves; and the remainder Moors, Arabs, and Renegadoes.' We suppose he classes Greeks and Georgians under the head of Moors. The city of Tunis is said to contain about 100,000 inhabitants : but exactness is not to be attained, where numbering the people is forbidden by the superstitions of the country, Of the city itself we are told,
it is surrounded by a miserable wall of mud and stone, neither fitted for ornament, nor for use. The buildings in the town are of stone, but of very mean architecture. In the whole city, there is not to be found one building worthy of description. The Bey is erecting a palaces which, when finished, may perhaps be handsome, but it is buried in a dirty narrow street, and that nothing may be lost, the lower, or ground floor, is intended for shops. He is also building several bar. tacks in the town, which, when completed, will render his soldiers much more comfortable than they are at present. The streets of Tu. nis are narrow, dirty, and unpaved; the bazars, or shops, are of the poorest appearance, and but indifferently stocked with merchandise. The inhabitants, who crowd these miserable alleys, present the pics ture of poverty and oppression ppo' 56, 57.
the city interstitions or numberligantes
The cof the aquel of Zawan, bited
bondage at Tils, and capti There were he time to wranso
The water in the spring, throughout almost the whole the territory, is either salt or hot, in some almost boiling ; though in several springs, it is particularly excellent. That used at Tunis, is collected in cisterns during winter.
• The palm-tree requires a great quantity of water, yet the smallest shower of rain would entirely ruin the date. It is, therefore, watered by the hand ; and in that country, the water of the rivers, which entirely supply the demand of the people, is so hot, that they are obliged to draw it several hours before it can be applied to the watering of their gardens. It is curious to observe, that although those rivers are so hot, that to hold the hand in them is disagreeable, yet they abound with fish, which are said to have no flavour. p. 65.
· The country abounds with antiquities; among which are the remains of the aquei'uct which supplied Carthage with water from the mountains of Zawan, a circuitous line of 60 miles. Some of the cisterns are inhabited by the Bedouins who remain in that part of the country.
It seems that comparatively few Christiaus are now in bondage at Tunis; that state being only at war with Sardinia and Sicily, and captives of countries in amity with it being promptly released. There were but very few subjects of the king of Sardinia in slavery, at the time to which Mr. M. refers ; and these were on the point of being ransomed either by the release of five Moors for each, or the pay-. ment of a sum agreed upon, from 1100 to 2000 piasters per head. The king of the two Sicilies, it is said, that august ally to maintain whose odious, oppressive, and AntiAnglican dominion we are employing thousands of troops and spending millions of money every year,-.
• forms a striking contrast to the poor Sardinian king, and shows, in this instance, the same low conduct which in other cases, has so strongly marked his conduct. If an unfortunate female throw herself at his feet, in behalf of the father of her family in slavery, he is said to answer, by demanding, “ if she cannot find another husband as good as he?" And an unfortunate husband imploring the ransom of his wife, is answered in the same unprincipled unfeeling manner, “ what, are women so scarce in my dominions ?" The number of slaves in Tunis, belonging to this prince, amounts to nearly two thousand; and let it be confessed with shame and sorrow, that upwards of one hundred of them have been taken, navigating under the protection of British passports. In vain has the Consul of his-Britannic Majesty used his efforts for their relief. While his endeavours are frustrated by others in power in the Mediterranean, who, from some strange policy, are afraid of offending the powers of Barbary, though they would not, but through fear, give a single bullock to save the British navy from starving, they must remain in slavery, and carry disgraceful ideas of the British nation into the mind of every one who hears of their situation. pp. 77, 78.
Bating the bitter draught of slavery itself, the wretchedness of exile, and the shameful usage which both sexes